By Jide Ajani
Last week, it was about the riddle of political stability and economic prosperity.
Today, and as this administration, which came to power on the crest of massive goodwill, continues its push for the removal of the subsidy on petrol, the riddle is about the chicken and the egg.
Scholars of Charles Darwin’s concept of evolution of man could as well wonder whether the egg came before the chicken. In biblical terms, God created the Heavens and the Earth and all therein – this suggests that the chicken came first! But because modern man knows about the egg bringing forth the chicken – even genetically modifying same for better, bigger yield – a simplistic understanding would allude that the egg becomes chicken.
But the question subsists: where did the egg come from before it brought forth the chicken.
Well, relating the riddle to President Goodluck Jonathan’s headache today, he has to honestly tell Nigerians whether palliatives for his proposed removal of the subsidy on petrol should be made available in the first instance or if he plans to merely use the funds that accrue from the subsidy to create the palliatives.
To be unfair, nobody asked Jonathan to become President.
Even in the face of what appeared to be a daunting opposition, Mr. President who claimed not to have worn shoes to school and carried his books on his head, plunged into the contest for presidential power. He amassed goodwill and, therefore, got the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential ticket and eventually won the presidential elections. Now, he must deliver!
Throughout his campaigns, no mention of subsidy removal was mentioned.
Whether Jonathan just woke up to the realities of presidential challenge, or whether he has been assured that Nigerians are so long-suffering that they can stomach anything, may not be said with any modicum of exactitude.
However, with the continued push from official quarters to continue to campaign for the removal of subsidy, then docility may be about to take flight.
Firstly, Nigerians should not be taken in by statements from a section of the senate membership on the matter of subsidy. When Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State raised the issue on the floor of the senate, it was no more than choreographed moves on display; it was a choreography which involved the leadership of the senate. Mind you, there is a difference between a Senator of the Federal Republic lamenting the loss of over a trillion on subsidy, insisting that those stealing the money should be brought to justice on the one hand, and lampooning the federal government for attempting to pass the consequences of inept leadership on the citizens. Most of those who spoke on the matter focused on the cartel stealing subsidy funds.
Secondly, most official speakers on the matter supine, displaying government’s helplessness in the hands of subsidy thieves and, therefore suggest that the only way forward is to remove the subsidy. How helpful this is to the masses remains unknown.
Thirdly, in all the arguments from official quarters, the most absurd is the one that says Nigerians MUST pay for governance – that is, when Nigerians begin to pay more for fuel, they can expect good governance. It is exactly for this reason that they sing the chorus that funds realized from subsidy removal would be used to bring about palliatives as well as fund, adequately, the projects of government.
Very soon, voices would ring hollow on the need for patience on the part of Nigerians. This would be occasioned by political jobbers looking for board appointments attempting to bend the minds of Nigerians on the virtues of patience and other further need for long suffering – the boards have to be filled and government would need to recruit as many voices as possible to help prepare the ears of Nigerians for the good news on what Nigerians stand to gain from subsidy removal. In fact, this was the message of Saraki (See Interview with Saraki). Yet, those who know the details of subsidy insist that it is nothing more than a fraud (Read interview with Akinlaja, former Sec. Gen. of NUPENG). But for every issue, there are always two sides (See Voices on Subsidy).
In all, as the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, continues to voice its opposition to the removal of subsidy, and the Jonathan administration continue with its own propaganda on the heavenly benefits of subsidy removal – the latter is also thinking of 2015 and constitution amendment for tenure adjustment as well as other political issues – somthing must give.
The NLC insists that there is a grand conspiracy on the matter of subsidy removal against the people of Nigeria. However, it might be a costly one.